'No quick fix to student welfare problems'

HARARE - Hard pressed students at the country’s cash-strapped tertiary institutions will have to wait longer to receive the much-awaited government grants and better living conditions, an official from the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education said on Thursday.

Conditions at most government colleges are in a state of disrepair while thousands of students have dropped out due to cash constraints.

Deputy Higher and Tertiary Education minister Godfrey Gandawa told Senate on Thursday that although government has a grants facility to assist needy and students from poor backgrounds, it is presently broke.

“Although government has a policy of cadetship which assists students with tuition fees and everything they require to attain their education . . . the grants and loans have since been suspended due to the constraints that we have in the fiscus,” said Gandawa.

In 1980, soon after independence, Zimbabwe wanted to provide free and universal education to all children through the Zimbabwe Education Act but that has not been the case.
“Should our situation improve, they will be revived but currently we are not able to assist the students with the grants and loans.

“Suffice to say that, we are looking at other funding mechanisms to try and come up with strategies to assist students.

“As you might have discovered, we have since started to assist a few students depending on the few resources that we have but it is a matter that we are seized with and we are very positive that one day we will be able to revive this to assist the populace that really needs this assistance.”

The poor state of buildings at universities and has also come under the spotlight as students are living in hellish conditions.
Matabeleland South senator Bheki Sibanda raised alarm over the matter with Gandawa maintaining that government was doing its best under the current situation to mitigate the challenge.

“ . . . with the budget that was presented by the ministry of Finance and Economic Development, you will realise that there is provision for the infrastructural bond and we have actually floated for the infrastructural bond which we are very positive will alleviate the challenges in terms of student accommodation.

“We are at an advanced stage and have since received bids from financial institutions that are willing to put up accommodation in all our institutions be it polytechnics and universities.

“We are now at a stage where we are consulting with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the ministry of Finance and Economic Development to finalise the modalities so that the cost of setting up the accommodation will not choke our students.

“It will be a challenge if we do it on our own so we want to be advised by both the RBZ and the ministry of Finance on the funding mechanism that will allow these institutions to put up accommodation in our institutions.

“It will not solve the problems as of today but at least we have started and are very positive that the problems that we are currently facing in our institutions in terms of accommodation will be a thing of the past once we start implementing this policy.

“I am very positive that before the end of next month (May) we will have finalised all the processes and selected institutions with favourable conditions to put up accommodation in all our institutions.”

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